TikTok has a new reigning champion. Khaby Lame, a 22-year-old Senegalese-born creator, became the most-followed person on TikTok last night, surpassing American TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, who formerly had the distinction. Lame now has more than 142.7 million followers compared to D’Amelio’s 142.3 million.
Lame, who’s based in Italy, initially rose to fame through his use of TikTok’s duet and stitch features, reacting wordlessly to complicated and absurd “life hacks.” He now primarily posts silent comedy skits, racking up millions of views and likes. His following began exploding last year, and in recent weeks, fans have launched efforts to push him to the top.
Lame’s ascent and unseating of D’Amelio is significant. D’Amelio and her sister, Dixie, are two of the central figureheads of TikTok, building an entire media brand atop what they themselves admit was initially accidental stardom. Their meteoric rise to fame through seconds-long dancing videos has perplexed people not on TikTok — and inspired millions of followers to try to do the same. The sisters earned an estimated $27.5 million last year, according to estimates by Forbes.
Lame posted his first video to go viral in November 2020. In the clip, which has been viewed more than 17 million times, he reacts to a video of a girl who is immobilized after some punk locks the backpack she’s wearing to a post… and he wordlessly demonstrates that she could extricate herself simply by removing the backpack.
Lame becoming the most popular personality on TikTok is notable given past issues raised by users on the platform around how creators of color — and specifically Black creators — are treated.
In 2020, in response to accusations that the TikTok algorithm suppresses Black creators’ content, the company pledged to take steps, including creating a diversity council and donating money to nonprofits “that help the Black community.” Last year, citing a lack of credit for choreographing viral dances to hit songs, some Black creators took part in an informal strike, refusing to create dances that otherwise might disproportionately benefit white creators.